Mission + History

La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club is dedicated to the artist and all aspects of the theatre. Founded in 1961 by Ellen Stewart, La MaMa is recognized as the seedbed of new work by artists of all nations and cultures. To date, La MaMa has presented more than 150,000 artists from over 70 nations. Each season, we offer more than 80 productions and receive 34,000 visits from people of all ages and all backgrounds who attend performances, exhibitions, educational activities and the Archives. We support the people who make art, and it is to them that we give $2 million of in-kind support including free theatre and rehearsal space, and audio/visual package, tech support, marketing support, and ticketing services.
We enable artists explore their ideas and translate them into a theatrical language that can communicate to any person in any part of the world. La MaMa is the place where emerging artists learn from established artists and where artists from around the globe share work and ideas. Our East Village campus has grown to include four theatres, an art gallery, artist work and living space and an extensive Archive.

Core Values

La MaMa values artists at all stages in their careers and is dedicated to providing home for artists; welcoming artists at the start of their careers and remaining a place that they return to again and again.

La MaMa trusts artists and values artistic exploration. At La MaMa, artists are free to challenge themselves and create work in an uncensored environment.

La MaMa values collaboration and connection. At La MaMa, emerging artists learn from established artists, and artists from around the globe share work and ideas.

La MaMa values the vision of its founder, Ellen Stewart, to present and support art that communicates to any person regardless of culture, race or language. Audiences are encouraged to see work that is unfamiliar to expand their understanding of artistic expression.

La MaMa values its family of employees, artists, audiences, and donors by promoting an environment of mutual respect.

La MaMa currently supports the work of over 30 resident companies and artists with theater space, rehearsal space, live/work spaces, fiscal sponsorship, and the expertise of our technical and administrative staff. Resident companies are The 40 Hour Club, Actors Without Borders, Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre, H.T. Chen & Dancers, Ping Chong and Company, CultureHub, Discovering Oz, East Coast Artists, Laughing Stone, Loco 7 Dance Puppet Theatre, Pioneers Go East, Kinding Sindaw, Skysaver Productions, Split Britches, The Talking Band, Teatro Patologico, Theatre of the Two Headed Calf, Trinity La MaMa, Watson Arts, Witness Relocation, and Yara Arts Group. Resident Artists are David Adams, Dario D’Ambrosi, George Drance, George Ferencz, Cesar Llamas, Gian Marco Lo Forte, Jun Maeda, Federico Restrepo, Ozzie Rodriguez, Kiku Sakai, Tim Schellenbaum, Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver, Michael Sirotta, Elizabeth Swados, Peter Thomas, Yukio Tsuji, and Zishan Ugurlu.

History

Ellen Stewart founded La MaMa in 1961 in a tiny basement theater at 321 East 9th Street so that her brother and his friends would have a place to create and perform their theatre works. Ellen dedicated La MaMa to the playwright and all aspects of the theater. It was Ellen who welcomed artists who were underrepresented, underfunded, and often misunderstood, at a time when the perception of what theatre could be was changing rapidly. For artists such as Sam Shepard, Lanford Wilson, Tom Eyen, Tom O’Horgan, and Philip Glass, La MaMa was their first artistic home. As Ellen toured internationally with her band of artists, she encountered the work of many world artists such as Tadeusz Kantor, Andrei Serban, Kazuo Ohno, The Tokyo Kid Brothers. She succeeded in bringing these artists to America to present their work at La MaMa.

La MaMa was one of the first “non-mainline” theatres to support full-time resident companies such as The La MaMa Troupe directed by Tom O’Horgan; Mabou Mines, directed by Lee Breuer; The E.T.C. Company directed by Wilford Leach; La MaMa Plexus directed by Joel Zwick; The Great Jones Repertory directed by Andrei Serban and Elizabeth Swados; The Jarboro Troupe directed by Hugh Gittens; The Third World theatre Institute, T.W.I.T.A.S (Philippines); Theatre of the Eye directed by Tom Eyen; The Play-House of the Ridiculous, directed by John Vaccaro; The American Indian Theatre Ensemble directed by Hanay Geiogamah; La MaMa Chinatown, directed by Wu Jing-jyi and Ching Yeh of Taiwan — out of which grew The Pan Asian Repertory directed by Tisa Chang; Ping Chong and Company; Laughing Stone directed by Sin Cha Hong; The Trocadero Gloxinia Ballet directed by Larry Ree; Kinding Sindaw, directed by Potri Ranka Manis from the Maranao people of the Philippines, dedicates their works to preserve the indigenous ritual and court dances and music of Southern Philippines; The Yara Arts Group (Mongolia) directed by Virlana Tkacz, which introduced the Buryat; Slant (Asia), created by Rick Ebihara, Wayland Quintero and Perry Yung; Otrabanda directed by Roger Babb; Actors Without Borders – ITONY directed by Zishan Ugurlu, and The Shaliko Company directed by Lee Shapiro. These companies have served as ambassadors of experimental culture in all corners of the world. La MaMa has been and continues to be the preeminent international portal for experimental theatre.
Ground breaking work happens at La MaMa because we believe in giving artists the time and space to refine their creative process as they make new work. Artists like Meredith Monk, Robert Wilson, Harvey Fierstein, Tan Dun, Joel Zwick, Mike Figgis, Jackie Curtis, Blue Man Group, John Kelly, David and Amy Sedaris -and others whose names you haven’t heard of yet – began at La MaMa. We wish we could name everyone who has been part of our history but all of our artists and resident companies – past, present, and future – contribute to the living and breathing artistic legacy of La MaMa.

La MaMa has been honored with over thirty Obie Awards, dozens of Drama Desk Awards, Bessie Awards and Villager Awards.

Today La MaMa is a world renowned cultural institution located in 4 buildings on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. La MaMa's campus is home to three theaters, an art gallery, a six-storey rehearsal studio building, a visiting artist dormitory, commercial and not for profit office spaces, and an extensive archive documenting the history of Off-Off Broadway.